Groundbreaking Research Identifies Genetic Predisposition to PTSD

Groundbreaking research from Emory University identifies genetic factors which, in conjunction with a history of childhood abuse, successfully predict the presence and severity of PTSD symptoms in adults Groundbreaking research from Emory University in Atlanta partially answers a longstanding question about why some adults acquire posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while others, exposed to the same events, do not. Emory investigators explored the interplay between environmental and genetic risk factors, and particularly how childhood abuse (environmental) and the stress-related gene FKBP5 (genetic) is implicated in the acquisition of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adulthood.

A cross-sectional study examined genetic and psychological risk factors in 900 non-psychiatric, clinic patients (762 included for all genotype studies), some with significant levels of childhood abuse and others without. using a verbally presented survey combined with.

Participants were primarily urban, low-income, African-American (>95%) men and women seeking care in the general medical care and obstetrics-gynecology clinics of an urban public hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, between 2005 and 2007.

Severity of adult PTSD symptoms was measured with the modified PTSD Symptom Scale. Child abuse was determined by the traumatic events inventory. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping was used to examine the role of the stress-related FKBP5 gene.

This study found that four SNPs of the FKBP5 gene interacted with severity of child abuse to predict the presence and severity of adult PTSD symptoms, suggesting a potential gene-childhood environment interaction for adult PTSD. This relationship remained significant even when controlling for depression severity scores, age, sex, levels of non-child abuse trauma exposure, and genetic ancestry.

[Ed. Note: This very encouraging finding supports BR’s contention in Invisible Heroes that when trauma survivors with PTSD acquire self-regulation skills to modulate their stress reactions, they can mediate their symptom severity.]

Citation: Binder EB, Bradley RG, Liu W, Epstein MP, Deveau TC, Mercer KB, Tang Y, Gillespie CF, Heim CM, Nemeroff CB, Schwartz AC, Cubells JF, Ressler KJ. Association of FKBP5 Polymorphisms and Childhood Abuse With Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Adults. JAMA. 2008 Mar 19;299 (11): pages 1291-305. [email protected]